Thursday, April 23, 2009

Old Market, New Market

I was struck by the juxtaposition of these two stories:

"Apple Helps Lift US Stock Futures"—which discusses how Apple's extraordinarily strong second-quarter earnings have helped boost the whole market;

and "GM Shutdown Could Begin Next Month"—which is about how GM demand is so slack that, in this economy, they can't keep their plants open.

Now, let's be honest: Apple's being driven by iTunes and the media players, not the laptops and desktops. (Particularly not the desktops.) What's driving this industry halo is online content, whether purchased, free, or "other". So what this combination is suggesting is that the "future economy" that everybody's talking about may be driven by a movement away from physical to digital transport.

We're used to getting work done over Stevens' famous series of tubes, and personal communication is just taken as a given, but now entertainment and amusement are moving online as well. We aren't buying CDs, we aren't renting movies, and the games and toys our children play with are not only increasingly digital instead of physical but delivered online as well.

No wonder we aren't as interested in driving.

One would think this is just another reiteration of Faith Popcorn's whole "cocooning" thing, then. Nothing new there. Except that Apple, again, is being driven by [i]portability[/i], rather than home delivery. People do use iTunes and iPods and the rest at home, but they're driven by the need and desire to "take it on the road." Except that they aren't buying cars. So I suppose they're "taking it on the bus" or "taking it on the train" or "taking it to their friend Jill's house". But even that doesn't quite explain the contradiction here, and I don't think "work everywhere" does either, since iPods aren't really that useful for that. It's a weird contradiction: a sort of mobile, digital cocooning.

Within that contradiction lies a great fortune. Somewhere.

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